Monday, December 22, 2014

Daily Painting by Carol Marine

book cover
Daily Painting
by Carol Marine


ISBN-13: 9780770435332
Trade Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: November 4, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Jump-start artistic creativity, experimentation and growth, and increase sales--for artists of all levels, from novices to professionals. Author Carol Marine was suffering from painter's block--until she discovered "daily painting." The idea is simple: do art (usually small) often and post it online. Marine reveals the tips and tricks that helped her and other daily painters pick up the paintbrush and start creating beautiful, bountiful, marketable work.


My Review:
Daily Painting is a book about painting, though much of it applied to any art medium. The author paints mainly in oil, but watercolor and acrylic paintings and even an ink drawing are used in the illustrations.

I was already painting small and often when I picked up this book since I've found this a great way to learn how to paint. I still found this book encouraging and useful. She suggested working in 6" by 6" panels (or similar small size) and setting aside a regular time to paint--daily, weekly, whatever--so you can get regular practice.

She described what daily painting is, why you should do it, and the materials and set-up she uses (mainly oils to paint still life, but she also suggested other topics to paint). She then taught the basics of value, color mixing, proportion, and composition. She described how she works--a "loose" style in oils. Then she moved on to advice from different artists in dealing with artistic block. She wrapped up the book by describing how to photograph your work to post it online and how to sell your work online. She gave enough detail for all but the most novice computer users.

I was left wondering how one ships a painting in the mail--it's assumed we will, but it's not described. Perhaps there are no special considerations so she didn't feel the need to include it. Otherwise, she did a good job of describing daily painting and the process of photographing and selling art online.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monstrously Funny Cartons by Christopher Hart

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Monstrously Funny Cartons
by Christopher Hart


ISBN-13: 978-0823007165
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: October 14, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Learn to draw the silliest and scariest monsters, zombies, vampires, witches, mummies, and other creepy cartoon favorites. Cartooning master Christopher Hart teaches aspiring artists all the drawing tips and tricks they need to create laugh-out-loud renditions of their favorite monsters and scary creatures.

This cartooning guide shows readers how to capture the lighter side of these creepy creatures by combining them with Hart's incredibly popular cartoon drawing style. Taking readers step-by-step through each monster type, Hart demonstrates how to draw everything from terrifyingly silly heads to wacky comic strip-like scenes of monstrous menace.


My Review:
Monstrously Funny Cartons is a step-by-step drawing guide for making funny monster cartoons. Much of the text is spent making jokes, so the main learning is done by the reader copying the drawing steps to replicate Hart's drawings. Once you've drawn his cartoons enough, the theory seems to be that you'll be able to start modifying them to make your own funny monsters. His target audience appears to be teens (and adults) who have some basic drawing experience but are content to learn by imitation.

He covered zombies (25 pages), vampires (37 pages), monsters that go bump (11 pages), cartoon aliens (9 pages), mummies (17 pages), legendary monsters (7 pages), weird & bizarre (17 pages), and scenes/backgrounds (19 pages). So nearly half the book is on zombies and vampires. In this book, he likes to make monsters "funny" by exaggerating features, so he gives hints and shows how to do this.

The text was mainly jokes, but he did have some teaching text. It ranged from "His ears are created with a combination of straight and curved lines" (which is obvious from the drawing) to "Push up the lower eyelids for a vengeful expression" (pages 42-42). He often didn't explain why you should make the feature that way, so you're left to guess if it's whim (and can be modified) or if there's an important, underlying reason to it.

I can see teens having a great deal of fun with this book and quickly creating a range of monsters of their own. I really like to know the "whys" before doing something and had expected to quickly be making original cartoons, and this book didn't really leave me feeling confident. I did enjoy making some cartoon aliens, though, as that section gave a bit more detail on coming up with your own designs.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Chaucer's Tale by Paul Strohm

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Chaucer's Tale:
1386 and the Road to Canterbury by Paul Strohm


ISBN-13: 9780670026432
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult
Released: November 13, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
A lively microbiography of Chaucer that tells the story of the tumultuous year that led to the creation of The Canterbury Tales.

In 1386, the middle-aged Chaucer was living in London, working as a mid-level bureaucrat and sometime poet. Chaucer was swept up in a series of events that left him jobless, a widower, and living isolated in the countryside of Kent without the close circle of friends with whom he had shared his poetry. At the loneliest time of his life, Chaucer made the revolutionary decision to write for a national audience, for posterity, and for fame.

Brought expertly to life by Paul Strohm, this is the eye-opening story of the birth one of the most celebrated literary creations of the English language.


My Review:
Chaucer's Tale is a biography about Chaucer with a focus on the events that led to his decision to write The Canterbury Tales. Not a lot of personal details are know about Chaucer. The author took what the records do say about him and then gave details about what life was like for a person in that position. He also described the politics that influenced Chaucer's life.

For example, we're told details about what life was like in London and how noisy and poorly-lighted his London gatehouse apartment would have been. We're told what the controller of the London wool customs did and what serving on a parliament would have been like so we get an idea of what his jobs were like. We're told what the literary scene was like--how poetry was usually written in certain ways and how it was read to a small audience rather than read in written form.

When the politics went bad, Chaucer lost his support structure and had to re-think his goals. He had to change his audience and writing style, which tapped into the social and technical changes that eventually brought him to fame.

The book was a quick, easy read. As I was more interested in the historical background of Chaucer's life than the man himself, I thoroughly enjoyed the details about the time period and the influences that prompted the creation of The Canterbury Tales. If you're looking for a lot of personal details about the man or a detailed critique of his writings, this may not be the book you're looking for.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Baby Care Book by Dr. Friedman, Dr. Saunders

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The Baby Care Book:
A Complete Guide from Birth to 12 Months Old by Dr. Jeremy Friedman
Dr. Norman Saunders


ISBN-13: 9780778801603
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Robert Rose
Released: September 14th 2007

Source: Borrowed from library.

Book Description from Goodreads:
The Baby Care Book is a clear, thoughtful and objective guide that helps parents raise a newborn. The subject of parenting is often confusing. The great value of this book is that it empowers parents with knowledge and allows them to make personal choices for each circumstance and situation.

Both authors are leading experts from the world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children. The Baby Care Book covers an extensive range of topics in clear, easy-to-understand language. Specially commissioned "real life" photographs throughout complement the text, providing additional instructions and information.

The chapters include: Getting Ready to Have Your Baby Your Baby's First Few Days Feeding Your Baby Your Baby's First Month Helping Your Baby to Sleep Your Baby's Months 2 and 3 Playing with Your Baby Your Baby's Months 4 to 6 Safety and Childproofing Your Baby's Months 7 to 12.


My Review:
The Baby Care Book is a book on baby care from prenatal to 12 months old. My my brother and his wife want to start their family. They asked my mom to be there when a baby is born, so she wanted to read up on the latest baby care information to make sure she remembered things correctly. I checked this book out of my library and gave it to her, and she gave me the following review of it:

"I was very impressed with this book. It covers everything you might have questions about and would be a good choice for first-time parents. It has good pictures--and many of them. It has a chart in the back for various illnesses and that chart directs you to the pages in the book that give more information. It's a good reference book for practical use. I recommended that [my brother and his wife] buy this book and read it."


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Moguls and Iron Men by James McCague

Moguls and Iron Men
by James McCague


Hardback: 394 pages
Publisher: Harper & Row Pub
Released: January 1, 1964

Source: Bought at a local book sale.

Book Description, Modified from Book Cover:
The construction of the first transcontinental railroad was a tremendous financial gamble and engineering marvel. This book tells the full story of the project from the earliest efforts of the brilliant engineer, Theodore Judah, to win private and government support for his dream, to the investigation of the Credit Mobilier after the track was laid in 1869, more than 10 years later. It describes how, after a Pacific Railroad bill was finally approved in 1862, the two rival companies, the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific, drove toward each other battling terrain, weather, Indians, financial crises, and corruption.


My Review:
Moguls and Iron Men is a history about the building of the first transcontinental railroad. The author did a good job of showing the many factors that needed to come together to get the project started and how the building of the railroad changed the West. While an "engineering marvel," the author spent very little time and no real detail on the engineering feats. The focus was initially on the politics needed to get the project started and then on the race between the two railroads to lay their track faster.

Almost 50% of the book seemed to be about the politics and financial maneuvering needed to get the project started and completed. The rest was about what the press was saying about the railroad and using legends and reports to describe how the railroad was laid and what happened in and around these work camps. We are told how the work was done and the challenges (terrain, weather, Indians, financial) to getting the track laid. The story was a not a "heavy" read due to a lack of technical information and the focus on conflicts.

Overall, I'd been hoping for a more engineering and less financial history, but it was interesting and I learned a lot.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Make Comics Like The Pros by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente

book cover
Make Comics Like The Pros
by Greg Pak &
Fred Van Lente


ISBN-13: 9780385344630
Trade Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: January 1, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
A step-by-step guide to all aspects of comic book creation--from conceptualization to early drafts to marketing and promotion--written by two of the industry's most seasoned and successful pros.

Do you want to break into the comics industry? There are many creative roles available--writer, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, editor, and more. Each creator serves a vital function in the production of sequential art at companies such as DC, Marvel, Image, and Valiant.

Veteran comics creators Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente take readers step by step through the comics creation process from idea to finished work, and along the way offer examples and insights from their own careers as well as their collaborators'. Not only that, but Pak and Van Lente also join forces with Eisner Award-winning cartoonist Colleen Coover to produce an original comic inside the book!


My Review:
Make Comics Like The Pros is a book on how to write (and otherwise create and sell) comic books and graphic novels. It's similar to Words for Pictures in that it talked about the importance of working well with all the other people involved in making a comic. This book gave more information on how to sell your own comic independently or through a publisher.

The authors talked about how to co-write comics and actually created a short comic, step-by-step, to show how it is done. For the art and editing parts, people that they have worked with described their job and gave some tips on how to do their job well. It focused more on comic books than graphic novels or webcomics, but a lot of the creation information also applied to those formats. I think this an excellent book for people wanting to understand how the comic industry currently works and to learn how to create a comic with others and sell it.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I Stand Corrected by Eden Collinsworth

This is another review done as a member of Amazon Vine, so I'm posting a description of the book with a direct link to my review on Amazon.

book cover
I Stand Corrected
by Eden Collinsworth


ISBN-13: 9780385538695
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Released: October 7, 2014

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
A fascinating fusion of memoir, manners, and cultural history from a successful businesswoman well versed in the unique challenges of working in contemporary China.

During the course of a career that has, quite literarily, moved her around the world, no country has fascinated Eden Collinsworth more than China, where she has borne witness to its profound transformation. In I Stand Corrected, Collinsworth tells the entertaining and insightful story of the year she spent living among the Chinese while writing a book featuring advice on such topics as personal hygiene, the rules of the handshake, and making sense of foreigners. Scrutinizing etiquette, she explains Chinese practices and reveals much about our own Western culture. At the same time, I Stand Corrected is a wry reflection on the peripatetic career she led while single-handedly raising her son.

My Review: Link to my review on Amazon.